Sunday, December 24, 2017

What Netflix Taught Me This Year

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own. 

This year marked a tumultuous time in America with politics changing the way we view the world, igniting the fire in many of us to resist, speaking out for those who have suffered, and seeking the good in others who are trying to restore this nation to the America our forefathers envisioned. While some may believe that they are making America great again, in essence they have found us resisting change and holing up for the impending failure.

And when things became really difficult to face there was Netflix, there to teach us valuable lessons about the people and values we cherish as humans on this Earth. Each month, I learned something new about what truly matters. These shows have taught me lessons about the good and bad in all people and how to move past that in 2018.

12 Months of Learning 

1. Sometimes, it seems life is just A Series of Unfortunate Events. We must sometimes deal with adversity against the Count Olafs of the world.  Just remember, when you face evil, you must resist.


2. Everyone faces their own personal demons. Some linger in The Mist waiting to confront us and others take us by surprise. Finding the trust in the most unlikely allies can make us stronger.


3. There's some scary stuff out there especially Stranger Things 2. When reality seems like The Upsidedown, we'll find strength in others. It's important to find friends that you know have your back.


4. We've had our own children grow up making our homes a Fuller House. Have faith in the next generations because they are trying to figure it out just like we were when we were their age.


5. Teaching the next generation that All You Need is Love will be more important than ever. In Beat Bugs through music, we can express how important the love for others can impact our innermost feelings.


6. Close friends are important to your well being especially when your boy or Girl Meets World. Find some and don't let go of them. Let them know just how important they are to your life so there isn't a question about how you feel.


7. Not all of us are destined to be great Trollhunters. Sometimes our fate finds us because there is something inside us that needs to be discovered even if we doubt our calling.


8. None of us are normal. Many of us are Atypical. Embrace the differences in others and defend their honor. Stand up for what is right and accept others despite their differences. .


9. The things that make us human can sometimes be our downfall. As great as technology can be, relationships with people, not machines are the most important aspect of human life.


10. A friendship that makes you joyous is the only kind you should have. It should be based on mutual respect, an ability to go out of your way for that person, and above all a person who will support you through it all.


11. Not all of us have superpowers but we can all be Defenders for what is right. Sometimes, it may mean that we have to run through a brick wall to get there.


12. When life has you up Schitt's Creek, look to your family for support. Sure they have their quirks but they are there to help you succeed.


What did you learn this year from Netflix? Share a lesson from your favorite show on Netflix. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Punches It's Way onto Blu-Ray

FTC Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Warner Bros. I have been compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. #sponsored 

Remember when your dad was just an ordinary guy who didn't want to conquer the world? Lloyd Garmadon doesn't and it makes this seemingly ordinary teen's life anything but ordinary. Everyone hates Garmadon because he ruins everything.

In the LEGO NINJAGO movie now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray, Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco) has to fight off his own dad almost every day under the disguise of the Green Ninja. The Green Ninja is beloved by the entire city for defending their honor. But despite all the accolades, the  worst thing is, his dad doesn't even know he exists.

Lloyd isn't sure what his mom was thinking when she met his dad. She thought when he said that he "wanted to conquer the world together" she didn't realize that he actually meant THE WORLD. And what turned out to not be a figure of speech ultimately split them apart because she wanted more to life than just the world.

Featuring voice talents like Jackie Chan as Master Wu, Justin Theroux as Lord Garmadon, and Olivia Munn as Lloyd's mom, The LEGO NINJAGO Movie is a kung-fu movie told only as LEGO can. With jokes for the adults and plenty of humor for the kids, it's a family movie you'll want to gift for the holidays.  Find out how Lloyd and his dad work out their problems and come together by owning your own copy of LEGO NINJAGO Movie on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray today!

Tell me who would you be in Lord Garmadon's Ocean Army from this film is and why in the comments below and you could win your own DVD Blu-Ray Combo Pack including some LEGO NINJAGO toys from the movie.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

That's Pretty Good For a Boy

"Boys will be boys" many people will say with the expectation that every boy is a rough and tumble dirt magnet looking for trouble. It's just snakes and snails and puppy dog tails remember?

There can be no sugar nor spice, nor anything nice about them.

"Boys will be boys" when it comes to the things they love. If they aren't interested in sports, there isn't much left for them in life. But please do not lament. They will soon be on their way to a life of working with their hands, driving a truck to work, and relegated to a banal existence in the salt mines of life.

Or, they may wind up donning a button-down shirt and matching tie surrounded by three temporary walls punching keyboard with fervor so he can keep the economy and his family afloat financially.

Yes, boys are too busy wrestling with their testosterone levels to be bothered with feelings and self-expression. They are drawn to machines because they are ones. Never mind the critical thinking or pondering that happened before schools even existed; when men pondered the stars in the sky and discussed where the world actually ended.

Their grunts and shoulder shrugs speak volumes now. We will ply them with action figures and guns to reinforce this thinking that they are always on the front-lines because they were meant to be there, not because they chose it.

Never mind all the historical facts of artists and poets from long before their time who spent hours capturing stars on canvas or putting words on paper. Nevermind they ways they spoke about the love they felt in their hearts based on a furtive glimpse or a temporary smile.

Yes, boys are just boys when it comes to emotion. They can't be bothered with tears, shouldn't wear pink nor dance the night away because they feel the music in their souls and not just the resounding thuds in their eardrums.

We should reinforce this notion to them in classrooms where critical thinking and innovation are born that creative independent thought is frowned upon because of their gender. We shouldn't give them opportunities to thrive and limit them with our expectations. We should let them know before they figure out what it is that makes them happy that boys are lawyers and girls are ballerinas because that's just the way things are done.

"That's pretty good for a boy" is what she chose to say in that moment.

A teacher my son had said this to him. A teacher that was supposed to bring out the best in him. A teacher whose very job is to inspire and empower all students.

And so, his mind began to turn. "Was it really good or just good for a boy's effort?

When you become a teacher you are told that there are thousands of ways to praise. There is no room in art to undermine the creation, revision, polishing, and perseverance it takes to express oneself in art. In a subject where we think outside of the box it's hard to imagine feeling trapped within one.  

She uttered six devastating words to an impressionable youth who was trying to find his identity in a class designed to nurture and grow a bud into a blossom. Instead of cultivating him with tender care the way a gardener transplants a a root-bound flower from a pot it has outgrown to thrive in the sun, she instead tore his roots from beneath him. If she had said that to me, I also would have lost my footing.

She chose six words strung together that dispel the notion that anything he created, solved, wrote, or performed meant anything at all because he is a boy and only girls have the predisposition to be expressive.  

I'm lucky I suppose, that in all the years of my schooling that not one teacher told me I didn't have what it took as a boy to be creative. There were hundreds of thousands of times words passed their lips and never among them was a word of discouragement or malice. 

There was no sarcasm when they looked me in the eye and told me that the way I saw the world was special because it was my way. There never was inference that what I created was inferior to another student because the way I saw the world was different from the girl sitting next to me. 

I told this boy that our gender never defines what we can and cannot do. I told him that her comments prove that even teachers can get things wrong.

I told him that his painting of birch trees in the early morning was more than "pretty good for a boy" and that while that phrase was said to him by an adult, and adults are supposed to know historically more than kids, that there really was no such thing.

I told him that despite her own ability as an artist that she truly could never see the forest for the trees if she believed what she said to him and felt sure about a boy's inability to be creative. If that were true, she was only really teaching to half of her students. 

The only way for her to get out of the woods would be to illuminate her path. To prove to her that while the woods may seem dense and murky for boys that our creativity will light the way; that our sheer will to not accept this premise that creativity is not for boys.

"Pretty good for a boy" shouldn't be in our vocabulary. It's an antiquated line of thinking back to a time when girls weren't expected to do math or read for that matter because it just wasn't in their nature.

So to my boy and for every boy who reads this blog. Know this; Art is for everyone. Believing that will lead to a generation of boys who understand that self expression is a part of who we are regardless of what we are.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Next Generation of Holiday Travel

I know what you are thinking as my kids run around your legs for the thirtieth time during the two hours delayed flight we are trying to catch to get to their grandparents.

You hate everything about this.

You're probably saying that because of this experience that you are "never having kids" so you've put on your giant wireless headphones and are attempting to drown out the yelling because one kid has one more fry in their Value Meal than the other. Don't underestimate the power of the fries.

I actually know you are looking at me underneath that trendy hemp-made slouch hat you bought at the outdoor market last Fall while trying to find gluten-free everything for a weekend seeing bands I've never heard of nor will I ever understand.

The thing is, I just don't care and here is why; someday, someone will come along who knows more obscure bands that you do, will make you laugh at jokes the masses will never understand, and make you question selling all your vinyl for that other round thing you suddenly realize isn't cliche.

This person will turn your world upside down and make you question all the days you spent lounging on the couch thinking that it couldn't be any better than this.

That person will have you making your bed, working for the man, and turning paychecks (no matter how lame that seems) into spending money to take the said person out.

And maybe, if you are lucky, you'll get to marry that person and have children with them.

Or realize that adopting a child is a thing your heart wants the most.

However you reach that conclusion, I wish that for you.

The moment that child calls you dad or gives you a smile because he recognizes your face, I hope you'll remember me.

I hope you'll think of that time you deeply sighed when I corralled the kids, handed them the headphones connected with an audio splitter, and let them watch Netflix while they waited for a plane that would push their bedtime limits beyond acceptable levels.

I wish that for you despite your scornful look or the way you nudged your bro and nodded in my direction.

There is always a plan but when traveling with kids, it hardly ever goes according to it.

I hope you also remember that your generation is lucky. You live in a time where shows can be downloaded right to your device so that kids these days can take their favorite shows to Grandpa's house who may or may not still have rabbit ears and can barely operate his cable remote.

There's a reason Grandpa leaves it on his favorite channel, it's because oftentimes he can't get back there so easily.

I hope you take advantage when your kids are my kids' age and save all their favorite shows to their devices. By then, they may be wearing them on their wrists and you'll explain to them how when you were a kid, screen time was limited by parental controls.

That's why I am smiling right now because I know what you are thinking. I used to be sitting right where you are today.

I thank the people at Netflix every time I pass through a security gate or deal with an extra long flight. When Netflix at home isn't an option while traveling, it's nice to know it is still there offline when we need it too.

Do you have a travel hack when it comes to parenting? Share your comment below and you could be featured on the Netflix Family page!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Pioneers

This post is part of a sponsored series between DadNCharge and Navdy. I have been compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Life has a tendency to take us to places we never dreamed of. When given a chance to take a route that many haven't travelled we can be reluctant to follow our hearts and prone to follow our brains instead. It's this internal struggle between logic and feelings that follows us on the roads of life, tending to take the downtrodden path that many others have followed before us than the one that looks untouched and unclaimed.

This summer, while driving from Denver to South Dakota with eight sleeping, jet lagged teenagers in the minivan rental, I contemplated just how far humans have come on this planet. While visions of restrooms danced in their heads, I started to think about the pioneers heading west and their multitude of struggles. Clearly, I had lots of time on my hands and with no one to talk to and while I drove on I contemplated the explorers that came before us.

I can't imagine what it felt like exploring a place unknown to them that was full of danger. Bandits could be over the next rise, waiting to take everything they owned, a wagon wheel could break and they probably didn't have a spare. There was no AAA nor roads to speak of at the time and everything they had with them was all that they had in the world regardless of what they would find three hundred miles from the last place they camped.

Here I was sitting behind the wheel, following the very path many had followed before me looking for a better life and all I could think about was why did Nebraska have no gas stations and what would I do without my GPS?

The word pioneer comes the French word pionnier which means "foot soldier", a literal representation of what it means to do something first. They were explorers to went ahead to check things out and to try out things before the rest of the masses came along. Their aim, was to make things easier for those who would follow and blaze the trail for those who would.

When I think back to how navigation has changed since I first started driving, we all relied on maps and pulling over to gas stations to ask for directions. Planning out a route took a certain sense of space and time, estimating the amount of hours it might take one to get from point A to point B.

Navigation as changed in that we rely now on GPS for a signal which is tracked on our smartphone. That means somewhere in our vehicle, we are trying to look down at a screen that is five to six inches tall when we should be looking out of the windshield in front of us. The average time we spend looking away from the road to our cellphones is three seconds. In those three seconds, a driver takes their eyes off the road to attend to their smartphone causing a distraction. Between 2014 and 2015, fatalities in distracted-driving–affected crashes increased by over 8%.

Pioneering with the Navdy eliminates distracted driving by putting you in control of your phone while keeping your eyes on the road. Navdy has a gesture sensor that controls your phone with the movement of your hand. Interactive swipes control whether you receive calls,  read texts, or play music without taking your eyes from what is most important, the road.

Here's a pro tip for driving in Nebraska.:if you ever see a gas station while driving, STOP. You never know when you will see another one when you are travelling in this state. Worried about losing your signal in uncharted territory? Navdy has its own GPS chip and antenna and will have a clear line of communication with satellites overhead.

The advanced sensors, accelerometer and gyrometer all work in tandem to pinpoint your car, destination and route. If your phone lets you down, Navdy won't. No coverage? Navdy will keep you on course with built in offline maps and its own GPS.

Yes, we have it pretty good now with Navdy doing all the pioneering for us. Yet, many motorists are still looking down instead of forward in the car. Distracted driving is especially problematic for teen drivers who are even more obsessed with their technology. Combine this obsession with a high level of distractibility and it's a recipe for disaster.

Get your teen driver and any pioneer you know a Navdy unit for only $499 or $21 per month with 0% APR for 24 months. It's an investment for the safety of those who get behind that wheel everyday and need to be connected. Take the off beaten path and with Navdy ensure that you get there safe and sound.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Survival Guide for the Twos and Threes

There were times where I would just stare at the clock and wonder why the day was going so slow. I had already dealt with five major meltdowns since my wife had left for work and the baby wasn't following her usual schedule. 

The me time I would spend in the morning at our local YMCA suddenly seemed impossible and I often knew that there would be days where I would never leave the house. Dealing with a child in the terrible twos is a daunting task. I would think to myself "If only I can fast forward to the threes, then we will be out of the woods." 

Well, that wasn't true either and I discovered that the term "threenager" was coined for a specific reason. The ages between two and three are the most daunting ages for a stay at home parent because our kids start to realize that they have some free will. 
This is the stage where your children will start to rebel. They may freak out because you cut up their sandwich wrong, the sippy cup that you usually give them is the wrong color, or they really wanted pancakes and you gave them waffles instead. They will make you feel like the lowest of the low and they will get mad at you when they can't tell you what they want because they think that you should be able to read their minds. Between two and three, they often can't explain what they want or are conflicted but can't express themselves well.
Here is what you will need to get through this time:
Consistent time outs. If they don't follow your directions, put them on a step or chair that you deem a time out chair. Tell them they have to stay in the chair one minute for year year old they are. Set a timer. If they get out, don't engage with them, just quietly put them back until they stay. When the time is up, get down to their level, calmly explain why they were in a time out. Explain that they need to say they are sorry. Hug it out. Then they can go back to playing. 

Consequences need to be established that are appropriate for your child's age. If you want to correct a behavior you need to set an expectation. The main thing is that you MUST FOLLOW THROUGH with a consequence.  A time out of a minute for each year old your child is makes sense. Taking away their iPad time is only going to punish you later if you need quiet time. 

Don't threaten if you don't think you will follow through. Don't count to three. Make it immediately clear that whatever they are doing is not appropriate in your eyes. If your child exhibits a bad behavior, give them a consequence like a time out. See the above pattern, follow through to the end and release them. 

If it happens again, go through the process all over again. It will take A LOT of patience to get this done. Don't try and reason with them. They are two and don't understand. My son used to run to the street all the time regardless of me explaining that it was dangerous. Consistent time outs was the only thing that worked.
Kids need structure. Make a schedule that fits with your day. Make snack times consistent, the amount of time spent watching TV, one on one activities outside, errands to the store, and nap times. If kids don't want to sleep, tell them they must have quiet time in their room.  If they end of playing alone quietly, they are learning that there will be some times where they will just need to be on their own. At this age, they usually don't recognize other children in play anyway and are in their own worlds.  
If you travel, keeping your routine is harder. Being away from home is hard. Even I have trouble sleeping in a strange bed. The noises are different. It doesn't feel the same. Try to make it as similar as it is at home. When my kids were young, I would put soothing music on at bedtime to help them fall asleep. On the road, I would play it on my phone and just let it run until they fell asleep.
Overstimulation at night can lead to restless nights. What is happening right before bed? Are they watching TV? Are you reading books to them? We would watch one soothing show on PBS Sprout, then read three books every night. Toddlers need a routine. It's the reason that pre-schools consistently do the same thing EVERY DAY until they get it. Stick to that routine as best you can everywhere you go, and they will sleep more soundly.
Many dads have a tendency to get angry. Hitting is not the answer. If you grew up in a house where spanking and regular beatings were commonplace and you think that you turned out okay just know this, physical violence teaches them that when faced with adversity, lashing out is the only way to deal with it. At their age, they don't know what they want so cut them a break.  It's going to be so frustrating and you may want to go into a room and scream into a pillow often. 
Be patient. I know it's hard. I have three kids who are now 12, 10, and 6 and I've been a stay at home dad for the last ten years. People who believe in beatings don't realize that they are not only physically hurting their kids but potentially damaging them emotionally as well. In real life if you don't do your job, people don't beat you until you understand something. Consistent punishment in time outs, following through on behavioral consequences, and staying calm will teach your kids that it is okay to make mistakes and that you will love them through it all.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Birthday Celebrations Made Easy

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own. 

It goes by fast is what most parents with older children will say when they find out we have younger children and theirs are in college. They are right. In less than a week our middle child is turning ten this month and it just doesn't seem possible. I still remember the first time she grabbed her first cupcake and shoved it into her mouth. I remember all the birthdays she refused to put the birthday girl hat on so I could snap a picture.

As she has grown, her likes and dislikes have become more apparent. It's amazing how kids become their own person and their interests develop which make them individuals. Along the way, Netflix kept up with her constant flux of interests providing age appropriate shows for her based on age and interests.

While she has grown up with shows like Sarah and Duck, Bubble Guppies, Poppy Cat, and others as she has become older her tastes have also changed. Now, she is loving shows like Bunk'd and Jessie and to be honest, it makes me a little sad that she doesn't laugh at the episode where Sarah and Duck discover that shallots can draw awesome pictures.

But planning a birthday party is a LOT of work and 71% of parents wish there was an easier way to get it all done. This month, Netflix is making it easy for parents to celebrate birthdays by providing on-demand Happy Birthday to You greetings from your kid's favorite shows. Where else can you find a video of the guys from LEGO Ninjago, Barbie, and DinoTrux singing Happy Birthday to your kid?

For the last nine years, we have had birthday parties at home. She has picked the theme and I have come up with the games while my wife organizes all the details. In the past we've had a Little House on the Prairie birthday complete with apple bobbing and potato sack races, an art themed birthday party where we've made tie-dye shirts, and even a My Little Pony birthday with pin the tail on Rainbow Dash.

My daughter will be having a pink party this year with a ten girl sleepover. Pray for me because my wife is conveniently leaving at various points during the night!

What I know is that using Netflix for entertainment takes some pressure off of us. The best part is that we can find a great movie like Princess Protection Program, set up our make your own cake bar with plenty of topping and we have an instant birthday celebration to remember!

If your kids have a birthday coming up soon, check out the Netflix Birthday On-Demand videos featuring some of their favorite kid show characters.

What are your best memories of birthday parties past? Do you run it all yourself or do you go somewhere where they take care of everything?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

5 Ways to Sneak Me Time

It's eventual when you have children who rely on you for everything that they will never leave you alone. They will no longer see boundaries between what you are doing and your expectation that at some point they will tire of asking you for things whether they be play, food, or things.

So, as parents, we have to get crafty in the ways we find me time. We know as adults that a locked bathroom door means STAY OUT I'M BUSY IN HERE while a toddler sees it as an obstruction between them and your attention. Mommy always says that I can talk to her anytime, so why would she lock this door?

That's why fingers under the door or prying eyeballs and mouths pressed against wood, trying to sneak a whisper through the cracks in the door jamb occur. There are times when meeting every demand will make you feel like a negotiator in a hostage situation.

That's why moms everywhere are sneaking time away while they can, fitting in their favorite shows on Netflix. According to Netflix, 71% of moms are sneaking "me time" into some unusual places. Here are five suggestions that this stay at home dad have tried that you may not have used yet.

1. Play Hide and Seek and hide in a place that you deem out of bounds for them.

2. Most kids don't like spiders. Tell them you are going to pull weeds and set up a chair in the shed instead.

3. Hide in their messy room. Camouflage yourself with the thousands of stuffed animals they have.

4. Get out your old toys from your childhood, explain how awesome they are, and fade into the background.

5. Turn on the sprinklers and sit back and relax

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Meaningful Connections

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly #ad 

Before I was a stay at home dad, I was an art teacher in a high school that I really loved. The interview I had for that job was by far the strangest I have ever had. I was invited back for a second interview and told to bring my portfolio. I was excited because to me, that meant that they were interested in me enough to want to see my own work as well as the work that my students had completed. 

What I didn't realize when I walked through the front doors was that all the other candidates for the same position were also going to be there! It felt weird. I didn't want to see their faces. Before they were just an idea; the competition lurking in the background. But, here they were against the wall waiting to meet with the entire art department just like me. 

We all walked into the room, met with each teacher at the school, and proceeded to put all of our work out on tables so that we could circulate around and look at each other's work. It was very nerve-wracking and I kept averting their gazes. We all felt super awkward that this was happening. 

But, I decided halfway into the process that I should just relax and enjoy it. I needed to be myself and let the chips fall where they may. As mentioned above, I eventually got that job and stayed there for a very meaningful seven years of my life. 

In 2008, I resigned as my wife's job had us moving away from Chicago to Rochester, New York. For the next ten years, I was a stay at home dad to three kids adjusting to being at home full-time, taking care of babies, cleaning the house, and taking them wherever they needed to be. Those years spent with them are more precious than anyone could imagine and while I felt sometimes like time seemed to drag on, those years flew by right before my eyes. 

When we moved to an unfamiliar city, I tried to find connections in dad's groups near me and that's when I discovered the National At Home Dad Network and attended the NAHDN Annual Convention. Attending my first one in 2012 was life changing for me as I became the blog editor and eventually ran and was elected as a board member.  My blog helped one guy find us and attend, thus changing his life as well. Being a voice for SAHDs everywhere was super important to me.

In 2011, we moved again, this time to Pennsylvania and I began another chapter of staying at home, this time with no family in the area. This was a tough adjustment for me. I felt very alone. That's when I started the Philly Dads Group in an effort to connect with other dads in Philadelphia. The dads I met in Philly have made friendships that started as casual get togethers that have turned into reunions of old friends. 

Being online was an essential connection for me while at home. My network of dads and dad friends increased, my blog started to grow and I attended my first Dad 2.0 Summit in an effort to further network with other dad bloggers. My experiences at Dad 2.0 but more importantly the people I have met through these opportunities have filled a place in my heart. 

I can honestly say that the experiences I have had meeting people first online and then in person has exceeded my expectations. I have met a good friend in Jeff Bogle of Out With the Kids, dad bloggers like Brent Almond of Designer Daddy, Aaron Gouveia of The Daddy Files, and Carter Gaddis, writer and karaoke singer extraordinaire. Without these connections online and in person, I don't know where I would be today. 

They all helped to shape me in some meaningful way. Before I started staying at home, I never travelled. I literally never went anywhere. Without these connections online which turned into friendships in person there would be a hole there that would make me feel so empty. The human connections I have found through miles of wires is as infinite as outer space. 

I have to thank Verizon for always being there for me through all of this. Without a reliable connection online, I wouldn't be able to Google chat with fellow NAHDN board members, I wouldn't have been able to reach out to others dads when I struggled at home or been able to ask for help when I felt lost. 

Without the online connection, my kids wouldn't have been happy to watch their shows and stream movies as a family. Without a reliable network, they wouldn't be able to successfully get their homework done or effectively complete research and science projects. 

With eleven devices that stay connected to our Wi-Fi, we've never had issues with buffering or slow connections. With the Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway router, I can even stream music to my phone while mowing the lawn fifty feet into my front yard! 

With the dual band router, I can get a signal anywhere in my house and with the FiOS Network Extender there are no dead zones in my house. And when I am feeling like privacy is important, my guests can use the Guest specific Wi-Fi with a separate password. 

If you are with another provider, consider making the switch. You can even get a $500 credit if you make the change. Make meaningful connections with the people you have met along the way with help from Verizon FiOS. Find out if FiOS is available in your area and get busy making memories with the people that mean the most to you. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Road Less Traveled

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Navdy and DadNCharge for which I was compensated. All opinions expressed are my own.

I was standing in the rental car building waiting for directions from our fearless leader. I was about to take six kids I really didn't know that well on a six-hour car ride from Denver, Colorado to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and the van didn't have a DVD player.

We loaded up the luggage, unceremoniously stuffing the backseat with rollaways and duffle bags with wheels like a grown-up's game of Tetris, trying to ensure that I would at least have a foot of clearance to see out of the back window. We did the same with their bodies, taking every available inkling of legroom and headroom the van would allow.

We had five vans full of leaders and high school students following each other via highways and side country roads that no one had ever heard of to arrive at our destination. In my van, I had a front seat passenger who was supposed to be my navigator, but an hour into the trip, she succumbed to the smooth sounds of the pavement rushing past us and fell into a deep sleep.

At six foot six, I marvelled at her ability to curl up into a ball in what I thought might be the most uncomfortable Philly pretzel I had ever seen. I was amazed at the rest of the passengers' willingness to fall where they may, with heads pitched forward or sometimes against the interior window of the car, mouths agape, drool dampening pillows they brought with them. Suddenly, I was quite alone with my thoughts.

As rowdy as teenagers are supposed to be, they sure do sleep a lot. So there I was in a car with nothing but the radio and my cellphone, following the GPS to our destination. The cars did not have in-dash navigation, so I had to rely on my phone, sitting in the cupholder for directions. Boy, I missed my Navdy. Why didn't I bring it with me?

I could have easily taken it from my home minivan and installed it in seconds on the rental car's dash. I thought about that every time I had to look down at my phone for directions while keeping an eye on the road. I did have some printed out maps just in case GPS failed me but I wasn't about to try and pry them out of the manila folder I had carelessly placed between the console and the front seats. So much for my human front seat navigator!

I kept my eyes on the caravan in front of me instead and furtively glanced at my phone from time to time, but the distractions were always present. The most difficult distraction was that we had a group text happening around bathroom breaks and GPS alterations to the original route. With my Navdy, its head up display would have projected my texts right in my line of sight, so I could stay focused on driving. Navdy eliminates the need to by setting up Glances to rely on someone else to keep checking my phone and read my messages - which is quite impossible when they are asleep.

We travelled through Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and eventually reached the border of South Dakota. We miraculously discovered a gas station in Nebraska as the teens bravely held in any liquids despite the rolling Nebraska hills and abundant cows. Sour gummies make you super thirsty and our gas tanks were getting low.

My advice when you pass a gas station in Nebraska: ALWAYS STOP, because the next one may be in the next state. We did manage to find one rest area in Nebraska, but the Wi-Fi was spotty and they only had one restroom. However, they did have a great area for relaxing from the rigors of the road.

Directions through the west are much different than the east. The kids started playing a game of That's My Cow, and we wondered if we should change it to That's My Human because we stopped seeing them for many miles.

Instead, I kept thinking to myself, "How did people who moved out to the west survive the terrain?" and then I remembered The Oregon Trail and it all made sense. Driving a horse and wagon across the plains with mountains in the distance never seeming to get any closer must have been difficult to process.

Today, we are lucky enough to have the convenience of navigation and GPS, but there is still an ever-increasing amount of distractions that can make driving just as hazardous as driving as travel by horse and wagon. Americans are spending an average of 45 billion hours driving per year, and one way to make this time safer is finding a better way to integrate the use of our phones while on the road. This is where Navdy can step in and make travelling in the car so much easier, as well as safer.

Imagine the applications during travel with the family or if you have a teen driver in the family who is easily distracted by his phone. With simple gestures, drivers control their phone's functions from the Navdy display while keep their eyes on the road. Access texts, app notification, receive a phone call, or play music by moving your hand or using the steering wheel mounted dial.  Keeping our kids safe while travelling in automobiles is a top priority, especially when the call for technology connectedness is so strong. Navdy is available for $499 or $28/month for 18 months at 0% financing.

The investment in our family's safety is well worth it with the piece of mind that Navdy provides by insuring your drivers will be paying attention to the road instead of on their phones. And when you finally get there, that's when you can take it all in, and safely use your phone to share with the world where you have been and where you are going next.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Staying as Cool as a Cucumber

This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with Russell Athletic and DadNCharge. All opinions expressed are my own. 

As a dad, I've put myself into compromising situations. I've made a fool of myself on numerous occasions for a laugh, stood out in a crowd when I was supposed to be in the background, and generally acted, mostly because of my size, like a bull in a china shop.

You could liken my dad style to Chris Farley in awkward situations; facing adversity by telling a joke or trying to slip into the shadows like an overgrown ninja with zero stealth. In the same way your out of state license plate excuses you from bad driving choices in visiting states, I stay cool in tough situations because I own them. I'm a dad and I make no apologies for my behavior.

I used to look at my dad and wonder, why does he always wear dress socks and loafers? Why does he still rock the same jeans from the 1990s? What motivates a man to hike his belt up to such heights that he needs inches added to his inseam?  My dad is not worried about his style. Take it or leave it, his look is unapologetically him.

I think that we all say to ourselves at some point: When I'm a dad, I'm going to be cool. I'm going to listen to the latest music, be on top of the fashion trends, and not become the dad that shows up with pens in his front pocket of his polo shirt. I'm going to be the dad that every kid's friends are going to sit back and admire because they are so cool.

What we should be saying instead is that we are going to be unapologetically cool in our own ways. The way I look at it, I need to be me and if kids like me, they do because of me not because of what I wear. Of course, it does help when your T-shirt game is strong and you stay cool because you're on top of the latest thing. Ask any high schooler who has travelled with me, my mixed CD's are legendary, mostly because no one puts music on CDs anymore.

I recently spent one week in South Dakota on a mission trip with twenty-three high school kids headed to Pine Ridge Reservation to do construction projects while the thermometers reached the century marks. On the way there, we flew to Denver and then spent six hours driving through four states to arrive in South Dakota. We discovered at the car rental place that the minivans didn't have DVD players. So much for my plan to wow them with movies from my childhood.

One hour into the drive and all of the kids in my van were asleep. It felt like I had young kids back in the car again. When they woke up, they asked how close we were. "Just five more hours to go kids!" I said with much enthusiasm. How would we pass the time and why was I starting to sweat already?

As with any road trip with kids, you have to think on your feet. Having had experience on long car rides I began a game of Grandma's Attic as an icebreaker, a round of Rainbow Cars, and finished strong with That's My Cow. I successfully kept six teenagers occupied without technology, now that is keeping your cool!

In South Dakota, the temperatures for the week were 100 degrees and we worked mostly outside. Our site had two young trees and not a whole lot of shade. Inside, out of the glaring sunshine and into the stifling stuffiness, I hung drywall with a crew which I advised on taping and mudding and provided encouragement for those who had little to no experience with manual labor.  Through all of this, there was lots of crouching, bending over and sweat. Lots and lots of sweat. This is what being a Dadlete is all about to me; being a team player for the greater good.

While summertime is the best time to go swimming, what you don't want is for that swimming to be happening in your cargo shorts. I sure wish I had my Russell Athletic FreshForce underwear with me on that trip because FreshForce performance underwear isn't our dad's whitey-tighty underwear of old.

Available at your local Wal-Mart, this underwear is soft, supportive, and features Intellifresh which guards against moisture causing bacteria that usually cause odor. Russell Athletic FreshForce underwear uses moisture wicking material to keep you cool and collected in the hottest of situations. There's nothing that gives you confidence more than being fly and fresh.  Head to Wal-Mart and scoop up a pair and follow Russell Athletic for all your activewear needs.

Dads, own your look and be unapologetically you and stay fresh with Russell FreshForce during the dog days of summer. Whether you are grilling up hot dogs in the excessive heat, hitting tennis balls at the club, or trying to show the next generation how to do The Sprinkler, you too can stay cool even if your own kids don't think so.

Friday, June 30, 2017

9 Steps to Anniversary Present Success

I'm not one for stereotypes. I don't  like the ones that paint the dad as a doofus who can't do anything right. I roll my eyes at the ones that are hands off from their children or who don't know their kids at all when it comes to gifts. The same could be said for the men who can't seem to remember the day that they asked one person to spend the rest of their life with them.

Men, it's your anniversary. If there is only one thing you remember that you did with your wife, make sure the anniversary date never passes you by without doing SOMETHING special. The reason your partner is making such a big deal right now is because you can memorize Wade Boggs' batting average in 1987 but out of 365 days every year, this one day escapes your memory.

All it takes is a little creativity and some research. In other words. Effort.

Dinner and a movie has been done before. Most likely in many years of you dating each other you've supped together and caught a flick. As your love is growing and time passes, your game needs to change.

If you are a truly lost cause, follow my nine steps to a successful anniversary experience.

Step 1 - Follow Tradition

My wife is a traditional person but I'm an unconventional gift giver. I like to start with tradition and then put my own spin on it. If you look up "traditional wedding anniversary" as a search, you will find sites that list,  materials that were traditionally given to the bride for each consecutive year. This is also listed in my wife's favorite book to give to new couples, Emily Post's Etiquette Book. It's not because you are an uncouth heathen but we all forget time to time which fork is for salad and which one is for dinner.

Step 2 - Living in a Material World 

The first year of marriage is traditionally marked by the groom gifting something made out of paper. Suggestions for this type of gift can mean note cards that feature both of your names, framing your wedding announcement, or having everyone sign a frame who attended your wedding and getting a picture mounted. While those are nice, I chose to draw a portrait of the both of us from our wedding and had it framed. Not Jack from Titanic? There are plenty of artists on Instagram, Etsy, and Google who would love to draw one for you.

Step 3 - Get Creative

Not every year is as easy as paper. By the time you reach cotton, you'll wonder if giving Q-Tips is an acceptable present. It isn't, but for this year I put a spin on cotton, pun intended. Cotton could mean a lot of things. For us, we knew that by April of the following year, we would be having a son. So, I packed a baby doll in a tiny polo shirt and put a cotton diaper on him. Inside the diaper, I hid a ring that had his birthstone in it. See, there are no rules!

Step 4 - But I Have No Ideas! 

By the third year, I ran into leather and my mind went to some crazy places. This year, I challenged her to come up with a gift for me with the traditional material in mind. I gave her a purse and she gave me a baseball glove. Best Anniversary Ever! There is bound to be a gift somewhere on the internet that is made out of leather. But, be discreet. Google searches for leather gifts may start to make her wonder if you've been reading Fifty Shades of Gray behind her back.

Step 5 - Big Box Stores Are Not A One Stop Shop 

Year seven had me scratching my head. Copper? I already have lots of that in my house which supplies her drinking water. That's good enough right? Here's a little tip: ETSY. Enter the word copper jewelry and you'll discover handmade one of a kind pieces that show you are putting some thought into this. Crafty? Make it yourself from supplies from a craft or art store. This year, I found a necklace with a swallow and three birds eggs which represented our kids. The nest was made entirely out of copper! I'm a genius!

Step 6 - Keep Your Mind Out of the Gutter 
(Unless She Likes That)

Year five had me chuckling. Wood. I have the perfect present for her. Ha ha ha. Erm. Sorry, got sidetracked there. Wood frames, a raised garden bed, that fence she has wanted to keep the neighbor's dog from making your grass it's bathroom. Lots of things are made of wood. This should be easy.

Step 7 - I'm Modern, Not Traditional 

Okay, so you're not interested in giving paper dolls or a cotton spun 300 thread sheets for your new house. Luckily, there are modern spins on traditional gifts. When I got to this year I realized that giving her ivory was not going to happen. Instead, I found a way to support the animals that were hunted for their ivory by donating to an elephant sanctuary instead. As a symbol of the 14 years together and never forgetting, I bought an elephant made by an organization called Ornaments for Orphans and purchased matching his and her Tiles so we'd never forget our keys or wallets.

Step 8 - Don't Always Go For Gifts

The older we get the more we realize that gifts are good stuff but experiences together are harder to come by. Plan a weekend alone close to your house, or like my wife organized, do a giant zipline together from the top of a mountain and if you survive, you can go to dinner with each other later. Spending time away from the kids (if you have them) is a gift in itself and the time spent together can help you reconnect with each other. You know, how it was when you were dating each other. That was fun wasn't it?

Step 9 - Staycation

Don't want to spend a bunch of money on a trip away? Have the grandparents take the kids for a weekend and stay home to watch what you want to watch on TV, surf the internet to your heart's delight, and stream movies and order food online. With Verizon FiOS' Gigabit Connection you can use the 300 mbps to use all the devices without any interruption. Now, if only FiOS could help you keep the kids out of the bathroom while you are using it!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly

Friday, June 16, 2017

My Daughters Changed Me for the Better

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

My wife is someone who can't wait. She reads the end of the book before diving into the front. She will research a movie and it's entire synopsis with spoilers just so she knows what to expect. If a movie is too stressful, she fast forwards past the tense parts and if she is watching with me, will physically leave the room and return to the rest of the movie after my cliff notes version of what actually happened.

It can be no surprise then, that when our first child's due date was rapidly approaching that we tried multiple times to get a sneak peek of what was between those baby's legs in a 3-D ultrasound. In our first attempt, he blocked it from view with a crossing of the legs but the second time he was ready to let his mom know what was about to happen. We were about to have a boy.

I remember the feeling when the technician turned and said "It's a boy"I literally jumped off the ground and probably did a fist pump while my wife shook her head and said something practical like, "We will just be grateful that he is born healthy" I probably nodded my head and tentatively lowered my fist.

It didn't REALLY matter whether we were having a boy or girl, did it?

I felt a certain amount of comfort with my son. I grew up with three brothers and was familiar with the equipment. Our son was a joy. He was so well behaved and did so many cute things that soon, we had the baby bug again. We quickly got to work and in no time were expecting our second child.

This time on the 3-D ultrasound, our daughter revealed herself quite clearly. My wife had tears in her eyes as the tech told us "It's going to be a girl". The utterance of that phrase is the first time I doubted my ability as a father.

Being around all boys made me more wary. I knew how they thought and the dumb things they did. I was one of them! I knew their secrets.

How would I raise my daughter in this world? Would I know how to answer her questions? Would I say the right things? Would she talk to me about important things and trust in my advice?

What my first and second daughter (yes, I'm that lucky!) taught me was that raising daughters is no different from raising my son. I tried to instill the same values, gave the same snuggles, sang the same songs.

The girls slept in the same bassinet and crib. I changed their diapers on the same changing station. They both called me Dada and ran to me for comfort just like my son. The only thing different about them were their emerging personalities.

My girls taught me that confidence and strength are not defined by gender. They taught me that it takes an equally strong father to realize that his daughters, while precious and beautiful don't have to be delicate porcelain dolls that we put upon a shelf.

We can raise them to be strong and intelligent, sensitive and assertive. We can teach them that it is okay to cry and that anger shows that we have passion. We, as dads, can help shape the next generation of women to believe that anything is possible for them as long as we stop thinking that because they are girls, we need to raise them differently.

Does it matter whether you are having a boy or a girl? The answer is, no. What truly matters is that you believe there is no difference.

I'm thankful that they showed me the way. Over the years I have changed their diapers. Over time they have grown up and changed into individuals. But, what has changed more is me and it is because of them, I need to say #ThanksBaby for changing my life for the better. You have both helped me become a better dad for all of you.

For more information on Pampers and to follow them on social, visit below:

Pampers Twitter:

Check in on Twitter at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17, for a one-hour #ThanksBaby chat with Pampers and Life of Dad, with a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Do I Stack Up as a Dad?

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Life of Dad and Cheerios. I received compensation for this post; however, all opinions stated are my own.

It started a long time ago when you were first born

and I held you for the first time that early spring morn.

I came to realize that day that your arrival finally made me a new dad.

I looked at your tiny fingers and I held them close not comprehending fully what it was I had.

I had a chance to show you everything in the world that was good

and I vowed with your mom by my side that I'd teach you all I could.

I watched you grow each and every day and recorded every milestone

and I knew what we were building as a family was more than just a home.

The way you smiled or looked at me would make my heart just race.

I even enjoyed the way you grabbed Cheerios and threw them in my face.

The books we read, the songs we sang, the times you slept upon my chest

were times we will always cherish though we did it without much rest.

Have Cheerios, will travel was a core belief

so I'd pack up some O's to give your hunger some relief.

Everything that I did, I thought of you first

even though sometimes your diapers were the worst.

But all the while I wondered, was I stacking up as a dad?

Was I doing everything I could to ensure that you weren't sad?

As you grew, I did too, and your sisters came along

Our trio turned from a few notes to catchy, full blown song.

Every step along the way was one that made us proud.

You learned how to crawl, walk, and run, your accomplishments abound.

At a certain point along the way you started to become aware,

that those hands you used to jam in your mouth were handy in that highchair.

You jammed in those Cheerios like they'd go out of style

and you'd gnaw on them gleefully with that semi-toothless smile.

You'd stack your blocks and knock them down to repetitive delight,

and you grew you chose to focus on the things that defined you as upright.

But one thing you should never worry about is how you stack up to another

because each child I have is unique and different from any other.

I try as a dad to be the example you need so you can shine so bright

and beam proudly when your rays reach others who need that guiding light.

While my stacks may be built up over time, I know this now is true

that even if you stack up the highest, it's okay to fall down too.

Looking back on memories with my kids as been awesome while taking part in the #CheeriosChallenge. You can get in on the fun too! Create a stack on top of your baby's head or when the teenager is napping. Snap a photo of a stack of Cheerios you put on that guy that fell asleep on you on the train. Stack them on vacation in cool places or just around your house. It will be a fun activity that your kids can get involved in and it works on their fine motor skills too!